from an officer in a British Army squadron of dragoons.
really must rite (sic) a line: it is so difficult to find time
or energy to attend to anything but the immediate. One cannot
describe military operations except so generally as to be of
no value. We have seen papers to the 7th. They almost make you
sick. Make no blunder; the German Army is a magnificent machine
which works well. The men are brave and well trained, and the
officers are masters of war. But they have bitten off more
than they can chew. They depend on their officers. We can always
force men to surrender when their officer is killed. They depend
superlatively on mechanical fire, guns and machine guns, and
are adept in their use. But we have certainly got the superiority
in morale. The men will cheerfully, with absolute confidence
of success take on greatly superior numbers. Out infantry fills
me with admiration every day.
retirement was no retreat to our men: they never looked upon
it as such, it was just like maneuvers: you either went forward
or back. When the colonel got killed, they got a bit mutinous
and were all for going back towards the Germans. The first ten
days we had a really hard time: we marched and fought practically
continuously for five days. The Colonel reckoned that he and
I only had 10 hours sleep (in 8 days). But then one had thirty
years of full nights rest to draw on. In addition, for
5 or 6 days we got practically no supplies. The cavalry we were
with lived more or less on fruit out of gardens and what we could
get in the country.
was had a great time, and it was worth having done it. It is
something to have been with a rearguard squadron and seen a whole
corps deployed against it. The Germans are really reduced to
depend on their guns, and that is bad. The Colonel was killed
at Heavy a German cavalry division with 12 guns attacked.
We hung on to the village. It really was a bad time, but it was
apparently worse for the Germans, who cleared off and could not
get their guns away. I got a guards cuirassiers silver
helmet, but lost it. One simply throws everything away. It is
so tiring, remaining for many hours with belts and revolvers
on and one never sees ones wagons. One simply puts food
and message books in ones pocket: and patent knives and
things that gilded staff officers who live in motors and chateus
, carry, one gets rid of at once.
work has been so entirely covering advances, or retirements,
or filling gaps; there has bee little charging on a large scale.
But there has by squadrons. The Germans seldom face our men,
and when they do, they are ridden down. Our men are far superior
to French and German cavalry, by their ability to gith [fight?]
dismounted. We turn infantry out of villages. I have seen a good
deal of the French troops, at least more than most. I spent a
really thrilling couple of hours in a French battery in action.
They are perfectly splendid. They simply love making as much
noise as possible, and letting off tornadoes of shells upon any
saw a fine attack by Zouaves. I saw the advance of a whole French
cavalry corps of 18 regiments and 5000 chasseurs of Algiers,
covered by artillery. Numbers make one really quite dizzy to
contemplate when one sees a column of German cavalry going along
the sky-line for miles and miles. It gives one enormous confidence
to think one is shoving them back. They are regularly known as alley
is a particular species of shell which is arriving pretty often
and which we all dislike. It is termed the coal box;. Partridge
and John Norwood were both killed of those you know, we attacking
a village across a river. Village fighting is really the devil.
However we always manage to give them real hell when they are
leaving. The inhabitants have but one tale between them: Tout
pille, Monsieur by the private soldiers, but les
officers sont gentils. When they pay they do so by cheque
on the Bank of France which shows a sense of humour. However,
we will make them endorse it in Berlin!
papers are full of the most childish stories. Correspondents
apparently interview wounded men, who know and see nothing, and
invent. An ordinary scrap, when you come up from rear to front,
is, first, people smoking and eating and paying no attention
to anything. Then highly excited individuals who ought to be
in front, will tell you very much what one sees in the newspapers.
Then you will find a good deal further on some wounded and dead,
and then you come to people who are fighting. At one village
we took we had to have a house to house search. Winwood suddenly
thought he saw a German disappear into a house: so he and I drew
our revolvers and rushed in. No one in the hall, so we burst
into the next room, and there found 4 men praying and shaking
like jellies. Most of them wept copiously when they found we
were English, and offered to show us where quantities of Germans
were. Visibly shaking, they led us to a bedroom, where they said
one was. We burst in there -- not a soul. Upstairs they would
not go because the Teutons were there. We descended with the
same result, and departed in a rage. They clung to us, to look
in the cellar -- to satisfy them not us. They can become the
most jumpy people.
amused one to see English patrols going about, right out, smoking
popes, and French ones with revolvers drawn and point in front of
them. The men are very wonderful. Through all the bad time, and I
have seen men almost drunk with want of sleep and food, I never heard
a groan or complaint, and always ready to gith and to do anything
for their horses. As far as horses go, we are the only mounted troops
in this part of the world. They cavalry horse are the admiration
of the French and Germans. It is interesting to watch a German infantry
attack an English one. You can see the German officers sending men
on in packets of 8 from the rear, and prodding them with their sticks.
I dont believe any but English regulars could attack in open
order like our men. I saw an English brigade attack, and it did make
one glad to be English. No one can produce a volume of well-directed
fire like our regular infantry. One has learned a lot in this war,
tactically and every other way. One makes some real friends and it
is all very marvelous to contemplate. One is suddenly convinced of
ones own superiority in men and training as regards the smaller
units. But the war is a sort of outside thinking to one. One sees
fleeing inhabitants who have lost everything; burning villages, wounded
and dead. To the French it is their own people and homes, and it
makes them made. We somehow fight on with no increased animosity.
It is still somehow like manoeuvres. If we were ordered to retire
again tomorrow I dont believe we should lose morale. I suppose
that is the result of a hired army. The French really are giving
everything it makes one wonder if people in England realize what
the advance of an invading army over a country means.